Southeast Missouri State University student James Spence and his son Zachary Spence, both of Cape Girardeau, will celebrate the completion of their degrees together on May 17 at the Show Me Center.
Although the two will be seated at the ceremony with their respective colleges, Zachary plans to push his father in his wheelchair to the stage to receive his diploma, a long anticipated moment for both.
Having his son at Southeast at the same time has been a blessing, James said, especially since James is recovering from a stroke.
“His courses are mostly in sciences and mathematics, so he helped tutor me through algebra quite a bit,” James said. “He lives with us as well, and his assistance has been invaluable during my collegiate experience. He has done everything from pushing my wheelchair to driving me to take photos or do an interview to even introducing me to Burrito-Ville.”
“Because of his stroke, we have grown very close,” Zachary said.
Zachary will graduate with a Bachelor of Science with majors in biology, with an option in biomedical sciences, and chemistry, with a biochemistry option. He is double minoring in mathematics and physics.
James will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in mass communication with a major in journalism and a minor in agriculture.
The Spences relocated to southeast Missouri from Raeford, N.C., in 2003. Jim’s wife, Linda, wanted to be nearer to her aging mother, and Jim planned to train as an X-ray technician after a 20-year career in which he installed floors.
But six months after arriving in Missouri, he suffered a stroke in 2004 that ultimately changed his life’s path forever, he said. He recuperated for several months in the hospital, during which time his wife, Linda, lovingly nursed him back to health.
"Because of his stroke, we have grown very close," Zachary said.
Six and a half years later, he decided to pursue an education at Southeast and enrolled in classes in 2010. It was the first time he had taken classes since 1980, he said. For the past four years, James has attended classes with assistance from his wife, Linda.
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